Metro Weekly

Photos of Angie / Bullied

Reel Affirmations 2011

Review by Doug Rule

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5)
Tuesday, 10/18/2011, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $5 at West End Cinema

JUSTICE WAS SERVED in the 2008 murder of Angie Zapata, even though the decks were stacked against her. A transgender living in conservative, rural Colorado, her alleged murderer was tried before a primarily older, white, male jury, and her lawyers went with the ”panic defense” — that is, Angie was only beaten to death after her murderer discovered she was biologically still a he.

Alan Dominguez’s incredibly touching film relates the joyous outcome of the first court case to successfully apply Colorado’s hate crime law to a transgender issue: Angie’s killer was found guilty on all counts and put behind bars for life. It’s since become a landmark case, a model for others to follow.

The film, with a tender classical score by Mackenzie Gault of the Flobots and additional pop music by Ozomatli, is a remarkable tribute to Angie, killed when she was still just a teen. Born as Justin, Angie was vivacious, confident and beautiful. Her devastated mother, sisters and brother all describe her as the life of the family. And the fact that she had a family as sweet and supportive as they come only adds to the pain.

The Mexican-American Zapata family has now become something of activists for transgender rights, in part adhering to an Aztec proverb that one never truly dies if they’re remembered by the living.

Screening with Photos of Angie is Bullied (starstarstar), another film documenting a landmark court case that offers hope for justice on queer issues. The film highlights an even higher-profile case, that of Jamie Nabozny successfully suing his Wisconsin public high school for not protecting him from rampant anti-gay abuse. According to the film, the case has already helped push other school districts around the country to take bullying more seriously.

The pain Nabozny and his family suffered is relayed and reenacted in Bullied. Unfortunately, the high-budget film, produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gets carried away with Hollywood-style dramatics, with a timpani trilling to signal pivotal moments, and dramatic strings to signal the end. Glee‘s Jane Lynch narrates the story, told in a rather preachy way as if it were an after-school special, with a sheen that makes the tale less personal and certainly less powerful than Photos of Angie. All the same, you’ll be touched by Nabozny’s resolve to right an enormous wrong, and especially his mother’s pride in her son.

Photos of Angie / Bullied
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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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